Is It Just ‘Mother’s’ Day?

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Nanna, Mum, Me and Jet the Black Labrador

Sunday the 26th March is not only the day British Summer Time begins (a weird quirk of the British and something to do with ‘saving daylight hours’ although why we can‘t just get up an hour earlier I don’t know), but it is also Mother’s Day, or as my Dad often calls it “Smothering Sunday”!

It always falls on the third Sunday of Lent, so like Easter itself the date moves. Traditionally it was the day of Saint John Climacus and people went back to their Mother Church, or the main church in their area, to celebrate. It is also said to have been a day of focus on Mary the Mother of Jesus. Later our Mother’s Day became entwined with the American version although we in the UK still hold to the original date.

However, whatever the date, mothers do have a lot to answer for

I am slowly morphing into my own mother. I find myself using the same phrases, calling my everyone ‘my love’, her mannerisms are now mine, I talk to inanimate objects – and answer for them, I nag my son about eating properly. Whether this is more about nurture rather than nature I’m not sure.

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Mum and Dad circa 1984

On some issues though we are diametrically opposed, politics being the main one. But even though our views differ I’m really pleased to have noticed that my mum is more confident now in expressing her opinions than she was when we were growing up. Mum is in her 70’s now and maybe that has come with age. I respect her immensely, she has had to deal with far more than I’ve ever had to and has come out of it all with incredible dignity.

I come from a long line of strong women on both sides of my family – publicans, suffragettes, nursery maids, factory workers, homemakers. All of them inspirational in their own quiet ways. Both my Mum and Grandmothers were doers, capable and un-flappable grafters in whatever they set themselves.

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Florence my Mum’s Mum a demon baker!

 

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Isobel My Dad’s Mum holding my son the day after he was born.

I hope their legacy will follow through me to my daughter. In fact I know it is. She at 14 is more self assured and practical than I ever was. She is bright and funny and hardworking and a pain in the arse, but I only see good things for her future. If I can be as good a Mum to her as mine has been to me I will consider that as a job well done!

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But maybe it isn’t just our mum’s we should be celebrating but all the women in our lives that have shown us wisdom, empathy, humour, perseverance and tenderness;  aunts, grandmothers, friends, teachers, daughters. These qualities are not just confined to our mothers but can be found in the wider group of women that have influenced us and helped to shape us into the people we are.

Are there women in your life you’ve been inspired by?

Jules

The Pros and Cons of Shows

img_1109We have just returned from the Stitches Trade Show at the NEC – a chance for us to meet new potential wholesale customers and have a good chin wag with some old friends. I usually go through a kind of de-briefing with myself making lists of the pros and cons of each show we do. It’s an opportunity to review and evaluate, a worthwhile habit I was introduced to on my PGCE a good few years ago.

It is so wonderful to be able to meet new customers and to have informed discussions with other like minded people in this industry. There are always new things to learn and new ideas to embrace.

Here I am with the fabulous ladies who are organising the #MonetaParty @sewabigail @SewPositivity and @rach_wain.

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The Lovely Triple Stitchers and Me!

I hope you saw their ‘swishing’ boomerang video I posted! I can’t wait to see everyone’s Moneta dress. The Party starts tonight on social media at 19.00Hrs GMT.

I feel so lucky to be able to connect with so many like-minded people (mainly women, but some men too) who love dressmaking, or other sewingy and yarny things, or just love being creative in a zillion other ways. You can find us on Instagram Twitter Facebook and Pinterest.

So thank you to everyone who came to see us at the Stitches Trade Show at the NEC this week. Indeed everyone that comes to see us at any of the shows we do. It’s always lovely to see old faces, well not old, you know what I mean. Although so many of us are connected through the ether by social media (and thank you for reading my wafflings, such as this) you can’t beat actually nattering with someone face to face. ⠀

While it is wonderful to chat with and meet new craft and sewing folk we do have to think about the costs involved in taking part in these large shows. The prices of booking stand space, electrics, lighting, accommodation, wages and food all have to be taken into account.  And one of the main reasons we do them is to increase our sales. This is after all how I pay my mortgage and feed my children.

The increasing costs of exhibiting levied against small businesses could be a whole other blog – or maybe more of a rant!

So each business will weigh up the pros and cons of committing themselves to the long haul of travelling, setting up, being on your feet for days, paying wages and then breaking it all down, packing up and traveling home again. For some the cons are starting to outweigh the pros, which is a shame but understandable.

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Drowning under a sea of boxes, soon to be full of patterns.

 

While this may at first appear to be negative – it really isn’t. What I have just outlined are the tangible costs to exhibiting at the shows. What we as business owners must do is also account for the intangible benefits that come to us through increased exposure to a specific audience – ie YOU!

Even when, like me, you’re lucky enough to work with, teach, drink tea with, eat cake with and laugh with like minded sewaholics, it can be lonely a times, sitting at your sewing machine, or with your knitting needles, or paints, or clay.

Yes, we may be fortunate to have family and friends around us to share so many parts of our lives, but they might not truly get the joy of finishing off a flat felled seam, or the frustration of running out of thread when you’d be finished in 5 minutes! To have a group of people who ‘get’ how frustrating it is to not quite have enough fabric to pattern match correctly or who can whoop with joy with you at the perfectly matching stripes it’s taken you ages to achieve is incredibly empowering.

While crafting may be seen by some as just a mere hobby or way of passing time. For those in the know it is so much more. We can achieve so much more together than we can on our own. If we can be there to help hold each other up we can be safe in the knowledge that there are a wealth of others there ready when we tire of holding ourselves up.

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It’s great to connect to our customers at the shows.

We can inspire, support, joke, advise (advisedly) and just appreciate each other and our own creative journeys through life.

So while I do have to count the pennies and that does appear on my lists it’s also the things I can’t quite quantify that makes all the difference.

Does coming to a show make a difference to your sewing or crafting journey? I’d love to know.

 

The Perfectly Imperfect

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My husband, The Bearded One, brought me some flowers while I was teaching last weekend, he’s kinda nice like that. And they made me smile. One gerbera was a quarter orange. A weird quirk of nature and something that should have made it fail quality control, but he picked it out. For me.

I posted the picture on Instagram and some of the comments made me think further on the perfectly imperfect.

Isn’t it the imperfections, the quirks that make each one of us unique? That makes the garments or quilts or whatever we make part of our story? What we do, what we make, where we are right now with our skills, the tools we use, it’s all part of the continuing story of our life.

So why do we strive for perfection? What is “perfect” anyway? The perfect wife, the perfect mother, colleague, boss. The perfectly made garment or sewing project. The perfect face or body. The perfect life!

Who actually decides the definition or sets the standards for perfect? How do we measure ourselves and what we produce?

I was having a conversation with the mum of one of my friends the other day who was admiring the rise in popularity of all things sewing and crafty and how she used to enjoy making things herself but that her friends shunned it as it was seen as not being quite good enough. If you could afford it you bought brand new. Brand new meant factory produced, homogenized quality control, no imperfections. A complete break from the ‘Make Do and Mend’ philosophy from the post war era.

Are we measuring ourselves against “factory made”?  If so perhaps we are our own worst critics?

Factory produced garments are made in a totally different way to how we sew at home. Each garment is broken down into a series of processes and assigned to an individual that usually only completes that particular process before passing that part of the garment on to the next person to complete the next process. And so on and so on.

Imagine how immaculate your zips would be if you only sewed zips all day.  Or how straight and even your seams would be. I have worked with people who do and sew these kinds processes and although they may enjoy their work there is little or no love there.

Do we as domestic sewers even want to be held to those standards? I don’t think so. Although I have lost count of the times I have passed an appreciative comment on something someone has made only to have the smallest of mistakes pointed out by the maker, that I really wouldn’t have noticed, let alone comment upon.

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It is these small imperfections that make me love ‘handmade’. Handmade objects are given qualities that come from where we are right now with our skills, time and creativity. It is the time and love we invest in each of our projects that really counts not the perfectly finished piece. So we really should not berate ourselves for the slip-ups we make. Or forgo the pleasure of acquiring a new skill or learning a new technique because we have a fear of it not being “quite right”.

Trying isn’t failing – failing to try is.

Maybe we need to embrace the Japanese philosophy of wabi sabi – the art of appreciating the beauty in an imperfect world, flaws and all. When we see a flaw we can be reminded of how it got there and why. The reason it exists is what happened in that moment of creation.

Does it really matter that there is a wobble in that seam, if you got distracted by what’s happening in the Archers as you were sewing?  Did you enjoy the story?  Or if there is a blip in the pattern you’re busy knitting as you watched your cat chase a feather? Were you laughing at what the cat was doing? Both of which have happened to me and then I agonised over whether to unpick and correct my mistakes.

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Neither of them were major errors and who would really notice apart from me so I left them. It was good enough and I had enjoyed the process of making. It doesn’t undermine or reduce the pleasure I get from wearing the dress or jumper that I’d made.

So although unpicking is good for the soul, sometimes maybe we should give ourselves a break and leave the un-picker in the sewing box.

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Some Other Julias

The Julia Pocket Top is our latest pattern and I thought I would share some of the versions people have made so far.

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I love Sharon’s marl jersey version. You can see more of Sharon’s makes on Instagram @sharonappleton

This pattern works really well with both heavy and lighter weight jersey knits. I have used both Heavy cotton loop backed sweat-shirting and a much lighter weight devoree tissue jersey for just two of my own Julias.

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Amy’s beautiful teal version
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You can see more of Sandy’s makes on Instagram @sandysewsnow
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Luan’s choice of fabric is just so cute and I love the way she has styled it for the photo! 

The Julia Pocket Top is also a very convenient pattern for colour blocking as one of our Testers has so beautifully demonstrated.

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Sarah has used two different fabrics to great effect.

 

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I love the choice of floral jersey for Shona’s Julia Top. 

You can read more about Shona’s sewing adventures on her blog  www.sewshesho.co.uk

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Ellie’s version looks wonderfully fresh and relaxed.

 

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Lisa looks very pleased with hers.

I hope that gives you a bit of inspiration and a few ideas for your own versions of the Julia Pocket Top.

Don’t forget you can order your own Julia in both Paper and PDF formats.

Jules

Introducing the Julia Pocket Top

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This is our first new pattern for 2017 and it’s been long time coming with the other very large project I was working on last year! I am so pleased to be able to release this pattern as I have been wearing it for almost a year myself. I hope you will see how simple and easy is to make and wear.

The Julia Pocket Top

This is a relaxed shape with the wide, boxy garment body slimming into snug fitting sleeves to give a tapered silhouette.

Order Your Julia Top

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Two different necklines

An open scooped neck and a wider cowl shape give alternatives and options for different fabrics. We have used a navy bamboo viscose single jersey and a loopbacked white cotton sweat-shirting.

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Clever pockets

Are incorporated into the horizontal seam providing additional detail and interest saving this top from being just another T shirt.

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Here are just a few of the comments from our pattern testers…

“This is a great , simple sew which results in an easy to wear top. The optional cowl neck and pocket detail make it more than just a basic item of clothing.” Lisa

“Very easy to put together, did this in an afternoon. Never sewn with stretch fabrics but this was a breeze to put together. Would recommend for beginners.”  Lyn

“A lovely simple pattern for a casual, boxy top, with very clear instructions and quick to make. A pleasure to make and will definitely be making again.” Amy

“I love this top and cant wait to make another. I used a fairly light weight jersey and plan on making another with a heavier weight or sweatshirt fabric as I think this would work really welll. The instructions are easy to follow and the top only took an afternoon to make.” Claire

” The Julia is a lovely, relaxed top to make and to wear. It is a great way to safely explore using a stretch fabric and create a stylish, informal and flattering garment. I really enjoyed making the top and will be stocking up on knits and jerseys and sweatshirt materials to make a few more!” Ellie

Order Your Julia Top 

Join us for a Workshop

It is such a Super Easy Make it is a great way to lower yourself gently into the warm waters of Sewing with Stretch Fabrics. We have the first workshop coming up on 12th February so you can join us to make one for yourself.

See you soon

Jules

Love What You Do, Do What You Love

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As part of trying to gain a bit more control over various aspects of my life this year I have been completing the Five Minute Journal where everyday I enter the positive things that have happened to me and things that I am grateful for. I must admit when I was first introduced to it it felt a bit ‘false’ filling in the same sections everyday but I have persevered and it does make me feel just a smidge happier every morning when I’m reminded about the positive stuff in my life – family, friends, good health, work, a great cup of coffee in the morning…

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One thing I have noticed is that things do get repeated and one of the things I am repeatedly grateful for is my work. At a networking meeting last week I was asked what I do. So I explained and the response was, “Wow, how great to be able to do what you love!”

Yes it is, and I do realise that I am incredibly lucky to be able to earn money doing something that I really enjoy. I realise this isn’t necessarily the case for everyone and I have had to earn a living doing  jobs I haven’t enjoyed in the past too and I was reminded of something my Grandmother used to say as well…

Love what you do, do what you love.

Although this can be taken in a literal way I’m sure she meant this in a wider sense.

It could be an almost a self fulfilling phrase. Love is a verb as well as an adjective. In the immortal words of Massive Attack – “love, love is a verb, love is a doing word”

 

I have tried explaining to my son who does not enjoy formal education and bucks any attempt to make him conform that maybe just enjoying what you are doing in that moment is enough.

If you try and actively love what you are doing, maybe you’ll end up loving what you do?

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It can work with sewing too. I used to hate having to unpick my mistakes with a fearsome loathing when I did sewing and needlework at school. But I have come to understand it’s purpose now and in the time I take to unpick some stitches I have the space to think about how I can improve upon what I’ve done. I can totally get where my needlework teacher was coming from when she used to say “unpicking is good for the soul!” Although I wouldn’t go quite as far as to say I actually loved unpicking now!

What parts of what you do, do you love and where could you love a little more?

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Because a little bit of love can go a long way and heaven knows the world could do with some right now!

 

Jules x

What Is MY Style?

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Last week I mulled over the idea that I was in a style rut and whether that was necessarily a bad thing. Thank you so much for your responses it looks like my ponderings have struck a chord so I thought I would start exploring further.

I wanted to have a go at really trying to define “My Style”. What we wear is almost a subconscious decision most of the time, you just grab what’s the easiest thing and go.  And I know that our preferences change with influences from the media and over time, but there must still be some core principles that remain true.

To help I went over the worksheet set by Colette in their Wardrobe Architect series to try and solidify what I think and feel about what I wear.  

And here are some of my answers…

History

I was always a bit of a Tomboy and had an equal love for a pair of favourite red corduroy dungarees and disdain for dresses and skirts. I also spent quite a few ‘fashion’ years just wearing black!

Philosophy

No longer a slave to fashion, I prefer to acknowledge the trends I like and enjoy but I’d much rather just be relaxed and easygoing about what I wear.

Culture

There are no real cultural aesthetics that I can draw on, or that restrict me in what I choose to wear. Or so I thought until I started chatting things over with The Bearded One. He reminded me that I was brought up in a reasonable affluent, mainly white, semi rural environment that wasn’t overly concerned with appearance, so maybe that has had more of an influence than I want to admit? 

Activities

I walk or cycle to work everyday and as I can no longer wear heels, practical shoes are the order of the day, usually brogues or trainers.

Location

Stratford upon Avon where I live is a semi rural town in the middle of England. So I am in the middle a bit in terms of Urbane Sleek and Country Chic.

Body

This category more than any other affects how I feel about myself and what influences the decisions I make about what to wear. I am no longer 25 years old or a size 10 and quite frankly, I have no wish to be. I am carrying more weight than I would like and no longer have a waist. Not that I ever really did. Well I had a flat stomach in my youth but I never really went ‘in’ at the waist. Which has led me to become more of an apple shape now in my middling years. However, I am pleased to admit that my arms and legs are still not bad!

I am planning on reviving my running routine this year, as part of an overall strategy to regain some control over aspects of my life and I am hoping that this will help to alter my body image and maybe even my shape as well. So I don’t mind exposing my arms and legs, as long as the rest of me is covered up.

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Although this exercise didn’t really tell me anything I wasn’t already aware of I felt it was a good exercise to do to ‘just get it all down on paper’ (which is a strategy I am relying more and more upon to gain clarity on a whole range of things).

 

Why don’t you try it and see if it gives you some clarity too? You can print off the Worksheet and have a go.

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Image taken from my Pinterest board and full credits can be found there. Link below.

Colette also suggested trying to come up with some descriptions of how you feel when you wear things you like and what would make you feel uncomfortable.

I want to feel…

Confident – being confident in what you wear allows you to think about other more important stuff.

Comfortable – comfort is a KEY element for me and directly linked to confidence

Natural – I want to look fresh and healthy

Timeless – Yves Saint Laurent said “Fashions fade, style is eternal.” So although I know my preferences will change over time, I still want to look current.

Quirky – the grown up version of rebellious, I think. I don’t need to shock anymore, but I do like to make people do a double take sometimes with something just a little bit out of the ordinary.

 

I don’t want to be…

Frumpy – Obviously!

Girly or cute – Frankly I’m too old and it doesn’t suit my cranky nature!

Fussy – Detail is fine, but I much prefer an uncluttered look.

“Done Up” – I like to look like I’ve made an effort but I feel really uncomfortable with too much make-up or styling.

“Shrunk wrapped” – Going back to the Body section previously, anything that is too body hugging, even with the right underwear, is just not me. I love the look of body-con dresses,  but they just make me feel self conscious. Although if I keep up the running who knows?!

 

I know I have used a couple of made up phrases here, but I hope you get my meaning. Also having a few ‘trigger’ words that you can be aware of when you’re thinking about your core style can help you decide if a shape or style is really you. Again there is a Wardrobe Architect Worksheet to help.

I came up with  5 words that I can use as a sort of filter to sift through pattern or design ideas when trying to define my own Style.

 

Simple         Cosy        Practical         Natural       Individual

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What 5 words would you use to describe your own style? I’d love to know so please add your words in the comment below.

I also have a Pinterest board with a few things that I feel define My Style of the moment, and actually I want it all! Have a look and let me know what you think.

Jules